Jeff Bezos (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

There's a new an­ti-ag­ing up­start in town — and it's re­port­ed­ly backed by Ama­zon bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos

Go­ing to space wasn’t enough. Mid­dle-aged bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos wants to ex­tend hu­man life — and to do so, he’s re­port­ed­ly back­ing the lat­est en­trant in­to Sil­i­con Val­ley’s bur­geon­ing race to slow ag­ing.

A stealthy biotech called Al­tos Labs launched ear­li­er this year with at least $270 mil­lion and a slate of longevi­ty ex­perts on board to pur­sue bi­o­log­i­cal re­pro­gram­ming tech­nol­o­gy, ac­cord­ing to a scoop by the MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. Un­named sources told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view that Al­tos will es­tab­lish sites in the Bay Area, San Diego, Cam­bridge, UK, and Japan. In ad­di­tion to Be­zos, the op­er­a­tion is al­so ru­mored to be backed by Russ­ian bil­lion­aire Yuri Mil­ner, who’s in­vest­ed in Face­book and Twit­ter.

Manuel Ser­ra­no

“The phi­los­o­phy of Al­tos Labs is to do cu­rios­i­ty-dri­ven re­search,” Manuel Ser­ra­no, of the In­sti­tute for Re­search in Bio­med­i­cine, in Barcelona, Spain, told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. Ser­ra­no said he’s tak­ing a job at the start­up, though he did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment made by End­points News. 

Al­tos has al­so re­port­ed­ly at­tract­ed the likes of No­bel lau­re­ate Shinya Ya­mana­ka, whose pi­o­neer­ing work led to the dis­cov­ery of Ya­mana­ka fac­tors, a group of pro­tein tran­scrip­tion fac­tors that play a role in the cre­ation of in­duced pluripo­tent stem cells. The ros­ter is al­so re­port­ed to in­clude the Salk In­sti­tute’s Juan Car­los Izpisúa Bel­monte, UCLA’s Steve Hor­vath, and cell re­pro­gram­ming ex­pert Wolf Reik, for­mer­ly of the UK’s Babra­ham In­sti­tute. They could not be reached for com­ment.

The well-doc­u­ment­ed (and in some cas­es ridiculed) an­ti-ag­ing field has gained mo­men­tum in re­cent years, with Ab­b­Vie and Google-backed Cal­i­co reach­ing a $1 bil­lion deal to dou­ble down on their part­ner­ship just a cou­ple of months ago. They now boast 20 ear­ly-stage pro­grams in the pipeline, with a fo­cus on im­muno-on­col­o­gy and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion that “has yield­ed new in­sights in­to the bi­ol­o­gy of ag­ing.” Three of those pro­grams are now in the clin­ic.

This past spring, an­ti-ag­ing up­start BioAge Labs plucked a heart fail­ure drug from Am­gen’s dis­card pile to test in acute mus­cle in­di­ca­tions. The can­di­date, BGE-105 mim­ics the ef­fect of apelin, an en­doge­nous lig­and that boosts the pro­duc­tion of APJ, a re­cep­tor that tends to be down­reg­u­lat­ed as peo­ple grow old­er. Af­ter comb­ing through decades of health da­ta from thou­sands of healthy vol­un­teers, BioAge be­lieves the apelin/APJ path­way is one key mol­e­c­u­lar dri­ver of ag­ing.

“I think the con­cept is strong, but there is a lot of hype,” Ale­jan­dro Ocam­po, who used to work in Izpisúa Bel­monte’s Salk lab, told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. “It’s far away from trans­la­tion.”

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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